According to several reports in the mainstream press, Google is phasing out Microsoft’s Windows OS on company PCs because of security concerns. The reports state it’s an attempt to close loopholes which were exploited by Chinese hackers earlier in the year.
Quotes from unnamed Google employees appeared in an article in the Financial Times. The sources revealed that Google’s 10,000 personnel would be encouraged to opt for Linux or OS X. Those who wanted to retain Windows on their PC would require clearance from senior levels.
Neither Google or Microsoft provided official comments to the news story.
The whole story smells suspiciously bull-like to me! There are several reasons:
1. Freedom of Choice
Google employees are known to have some of the best perks in the IT world. They are famous for the 20% projects where workers can request a day per week to investigate or develop technology of their choice. So why would Google suddenly restrict employee freedom? Many will have used Windows for years and the company would suffer diminished productivity while users migrated to other platforms.
2. Security Investigations
If a Microsoft technology exploit was the cause of the security problems, moving the company off Windows and Internet Explorer has no bearing on what software Google’s users run.
How can the exploits be investigated if employees are unable to use the software which causes the problem?
3. Browser Testing
Like it or not, Internet Explorer is the world’s most widely-used browser. Usage may be diminishing, but how can Google build web-based solutions if they can’t test them in the top mainstream browser?
It’s possible to run IE on Linux, but it’s not an exact replica of the Windows version. If you want to test IE, you need Windows.
4. Copying the Competition
No software product is developed in total isolation. Software vendors mimic or blatantly copy ideas and features from competing systems. Google is no exception and many of their products have been influenced by software which originated from Microsoft or other companies.
How can they keep up with the competition if they refuse to install their software?
5. Convenient OS Propaganda
Even though neither company has commented, the story has taken on a life of its own. Whether it was started by Google or not doesn’t matter: they will certainly benefit.
Google is releasing Chrome OS within a few months. It’s a convenient coincidence if Windows security can be questioned during the lead up to that event.
Personally, I don’t believe a word of it. However, it shows how large organisations can manipulate the media to their own advantage.
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.